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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 December 1999
D i v i s i o n f o r P a l e s t i n i a n R i g h t s

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine
Monthly media monitoring review

December 1999


PA President Yasser Arafat inaugurated the Bethlehem 2000 celebrations in a ceremony at Manger Square to a crowd of some 5,000. As many as thirteen leaders of all the Christian faiths represented in Jerusalem attended the ceremony. Among the speakers were Latin Patriarch Michel Sabah, the Vatican’s representative in the Holy Land, and Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Nasser. (AFP, DPA, The Baltimore Sun)


Israeli housing Minister Yitzhak Levy announced the issuance of tenders for construction of 500 housing units in “Geva-Benyamin” and “Alfei Menashe,” two settlements northeast of Tel Aviv. Mr. Levy said the construction of the houses had been decided a long time ago and was necessary to meet demand. Since taking office, the Barak Government has approved the construction of 3,196 housing units in settlements in the West Bank. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post, The Washington Post)

Israeli-Palestinian negotiations ended without agreement on the issue of Israeli settlements. Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo said future negotiating sessions would be held, but the Palestinians would not discuss any issue except that of the settlements. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak refused to agree to this request. He had said earlier that any future agreement envisaged Israeli settlement blocks under Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank. The “crisis” erupted on the eve of the arrival of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in the area. (AFP, BBC, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak pledged to halt further expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank in an effort to defuse growing tensions with the Palestinians. He said there was no point in starting new construction in the settlements while peace negotiations were underway because it was not certain the construction would be completed. Nabil Abu Rudeinah, an adviser to PA President Arafat, said Mr. Barak’s offer did not mean a freeze on all ongoing and new settlement activity and that it remained vague. Palestinian negotiators said the cessation of settlement activity topped the Palestinian side’s agenda. (AFP, Reuters, The New York Times, XINHUA)


Amnesty International (AI) released a report entitled “Demolition and Dispossession: the Destruction of Palestinian Homes,” which stated that the Israeli practice of demolishing homes of Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, had left at least 16,700 Palestinians homeless, and constituted a serious violations of international human rights standards. The report further said that while Prime Minister Barak had set up an inter-ministerial committee to address house demolitions, there had been no abatement in the practice nor had there been a change in the Israeli quota system that sought a Palestinian population of not more than 25.5 per cent in Jerusalem. AI Director Curt Goering called the policy cold-hearted and abhorrent. AI called on Mr. Barak to end the discriminatory policy of denying building permits and demolishing Palestinian homes; to ensure that all outstanding demolition orders were cancelled and that responsibility for planning was restored to the Palestinian communities in each area. (US Newswire)


Ha’aretz reported that Israel and the PA would complete a first draft of the framework agreement for a permanent settlement within the next four weeks, or 10 January 2000. By late January, US Secretary of State Albright was expected to make a recommendation to President Clinton whether to convene a summit meeting. President Clinton had said that such a meeting would depend on progress made in the bilateral talks between the two sides. PA chief negotiator, however, denied that the two sides would reach an agreement within the next 30 days. Meanwhile the PA Information Ministry released a position paper which demanded that Israel’s borders with the future Palestinian State be those that divided it from the West Bank and Gaza before the 1967 war. (Ha’aretz, Reuters, XINHUA)

Jewish settlers planted grape vines on a plot of land between Halhoul and the Jewish settlement of “Kiryat Arba,” near the town of Hebron. Some 60 flag-waving settlers, who were guarded by Israeli troops, vowed to return to place caravans on the site, which they said marked the land for future settlement. (Reuters)

The survey of the Nablus-based Centre for Research and Studies said only 18 per cent of the 1,229 Palestinians polled trusted Israeli Prime Minister Barak compared with 29 per cent in a poll taken in July after he took office. Support of overall peacemaking efforts with Israel remained high although only 14 per cent of Palestinians believed a framework agreement would be possible by February 2000. Palestinian support for military attacks against Israel had dropped to 36 per cent from 39 per cent in September. (Reuters)


PA President Arafat met for three hours with Israeli Prime Minister Barak in Ramallah. Mr. Nabil Abu Rudeina, an Arafat aide, said it was part of a series of unannounced meetings to discuss ways of pushing the peace process forward. It was the first such encounter between the two leaders in the Palestinian territory. (AFP, Reuters)

PA President Arafat met with Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Shimon Peres in Ramallah to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. They also talked about strengthening bilateral economic ties and agreed on a joint economic policy with regard to the European Union, according to the Israeli news agency, ITIM. (AFP)


Some 360,000 worshippers flocked to East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque for the penultimate weekly prayers of the Muslim observance of Ramadan. Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, who had been granted special permits allowing them to enter Israel, were among those taking part. Large numbers of police were deployed to keep order but no incidents were reported before or during the prayers. (AFP)

Thousands of Christian pilgrims gathered in Bethlehem to begin millennium Christmas festivities. Armed Palestinian police took up positions on rooftops ringing Manger Square while other security men mixed with the crowd in the town which had undergone a $200 million rehabilitation for the expected influx of visitors. PA President Arafat, Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Italy’s Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema attended midnight mass in the Church of Saint Catherine led by Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah. Three religions intermingled. While church bells rang, muezzins called Muslims to gather for prayers for the holy month of Ramadan, and Jews hurried from shops to prepare for the Sabbath. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)


The Israeli military administration in the West Bank has agreed to the construction of more than 5,000 new homes for Jewish setters according to Israeli public radio. During the past two months, the administration issued 2,757 construction permits, gave preliminary approval for the building of an additional 2,139 housing units and authorized the installation of 85 mobile homes for the settlers. Ephraim Sneh, Israeli Deputy Defence Mnister, who is responsible for providing final authorization for new settlement construction, denied knowledge of the new plans. (AFP, DPA) 28

The Israeli Army tore down a shrine to Baruch Goldstein, Jewish extremist, who massacred Palestinian worshippers in Hebron five years ago. The Army action followed a high court ruling ordering the memorial to be dismantled, while Goldstein’s tomb was left in tact. Some 30 members of the outlawed Kach movement staged a protest, but were kept away from the site by the Army. (AFP)


A group of 26 Palestinian prisoners were released from jail after Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a challenge to their early release. A group called the Committee of Victims of Terror opposed the freeing of Palestinian activists jailed for violence against Israelis. The PA had criticised the scale of the latest release and the absence of consultations over the names and numbers. (AFP, Reuters)

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reported that the Palestinian economy grew by between 2 and 3 per cent in real figures in 1998. One reason for the growth was that there had been no Israeli closure days in 1998 compared to more than 180 closure days in 1997. The gross domestic proudct for 1998 was $ 4.5 billion, compared to $ 4.2 billion in 1997. Gross national product for 1998 was higher at $ 5.9 billion. (DPA, Reuters)


Israel freed an additional 7 prisoners, 6 being residents of East Jerusalem. Faisal Husseini, PLO official in charge of Jerusalem affairs, said the move reflected a considerable change in Israel’s position regarding East Jerusalem. Israel had always refused to include East Jerusalem Palestinians in any negotiated prisoner release, fearing that this would imply implicit recognition of Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem. An Israeli official said the releases did not raise the question of Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and were simply a humanitarian gesture for Ramadan. (AFP, XINHUA)

Israeli settlers took over an abandoned Israeli Army camp, erecting tents and building a temporary structure. The Army had evacuated the base during preparations for a troop redeployment as part of the agreement of transferring parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control. Israeli soldiers forcibly removed about 120 teenage settlers to waiting buses. The teenagers were from the radical settler youth group, Generation of the Future. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)


More than 200,000 Palestinians packed the center of Gaza for a show of fireworks and political support to mark 35 years of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement and the start of the new millennium. Revellers held flaming torches, Palestinian flags and posters of Mr. Arafat as he lit the main torch and pledged to give the Palestinians an independent state in 2000. In Bethlehem, Manger Square echoed to the beat of Palestinian nationalist songs a few hours before a midnight millennium celebration. (Reuters)

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